History of Mesa
The first settlers in the area were a group of Mormons who were instructed to establish a settlement in Arizona and who in 1877 arrived at Lehi, at the edge of present-day mesa. At the same time, another group of settlers, called the First Mesa Company, arrived and did not join the settlement at Lehi but rather formed their own, on top of a mesa. Another company came in 1879 and established a settlement called Stringtown. In the late 1800s, Lehi (called Fort Utah at the time) was flooded and the other, more elevated settlement (present-day Mesa) to flourish. Mesa City was established in 1878 and incorporated in 1883. Two years later, the Mesa Canal was widened enough to support a power plant, which provided enough capital for the expenditures in the city until the 1960s.
By 1940 Mesa became the third largest city in Arizona. Its population consisted of Mormons, the Hispanics and Native American, combined with African American families and Chinese and Japanese Americans. With the World War II, Falcon Field Airport and Williams Air Force Base were established as training sites for British and American pilots and when the war ended many military families remained in Mesa, contributing to the city’s growing population. In the 1960s the city switched from farming (primarily citrus and cotton) to high-tech industries. Today aviation industry continues to boost the local economy and remains one of the most important sectors in Mesa.
Geography and Climate
Mesa is located in the Sonoran Desert, bordered by Tempe to the west, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community to the north, Chandler and Gilbert to the south and Apache Junction to the east. It lies at 1,241 feet above sea level and somehow manages to combine topographical elements such as desert, mountain and water.
The city has a desert climate, with mild winters and hot summers. It gets an average of 320 days of sunshine annually.
Mesa occupies an area of 125.18 square miles and lies in the Mountain Standard Time Zone (UTC-7).
Mesa has a very large area and a long east to west travel distance (more than 18 miles), which is why it is commonly divided into East Mesa and West Mesa.
Population of Mesa
In 2010, Mesa had a population of 439,041. The racial makeup was 64.3% non-Hispanic White, 26.54% Hispanic or Latino of any race, 3.5% Black or African American, 2.4% Native American, 1.9% Asian, 0.4% Pacific Islander, 3.4% some other race and 5.8% some other race.
The median household income was $42,817 and the per capita income was $19,601. About 8.9% of the population lived below the poverty line in 2010.
Economy and Industry
Mesa is a major center of aeronautical industries, from manufacturing to training and education. Boeing has a control panel design and installation facility at Falcon Field Airport and also has a Training Services and Systems center. Other companies and facilities related to aviation include Arizona Aviation, Eagle’s Roost Aviation Services and Professional Flight Instruction.
Machinery is also a large industry in Mesa, with companies such as TRW Vehicle Safety Systems, Inc., Empire Southwest Machinery and Empire Regional Training Center.
Largest employers in Mesa include Mesa Public Schools, Banner Health, Boeing, City of Mesa, Mesa Community College, Wal-Mart, Empire Southwest, County of Maricopa, Rural/Metro and Bashas.
Culture, Arts and Events
Mesa Arts Center, opened in 2005, is the largest arts center in Arizona and includes performing arts facilities, galleries and studios. Other notable cultural institutions in the city include Mesa Amphitheatre, Mesa Historical Museum, Arizona Museum of Natural History, Mesa Grande Ruins, Park of the Canals and Mesa Arizona Temple.
Mesa has only one skyscraper - the Bank of America building.
Some of the most popular seasonal and annual events in Mesa include Blues Blast at the Mesa Amphitheatre, Old World Folk Music Festival, Cinco de Mayo and Fourth of July festivities, Mesa Pow Wow and Sculptures in the Streets.
HoHoKam Park is the home to the Chicago Cubs during the Cactus League spring trainings.
As for the higher education, Mesa is home to the Mesa Community College, the largest of the Maricopa Community Colleges. There is also the Polytechnic campus of the Arizona State University, the A.T. Still University’s Osteopathic Medical School and the aviation school CAE Global Academy Phoenix.
Mesa does not have an interstate highway passing through but it is served instead by the U.S. Route 60 (known as the Superstition Freeway), the State Route 87, Loop 101 and Loop 202.
The city is served by two airports: Falcon Field, which is today a city-owned, public use airport, and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, which provides limited air service to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.